COLUMN: The business of education and student loan debt forgiveness

Published 6:24 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Have you ever thought of something, an idea maybe, that becomes true, that as years pass by you realize that something, a thought or an idea, becomes a reality? 

Come to think of it, our life is all about business — doing things and working, and providing goods or services (together) to meet society’s needs and common goals, for profit or not (for humanitarian reasons). 

From our conception to birth and beyond, there’s business involved in our life, in all aspects and phases of life. Pause a moment, think or analyze what I just said. Did I make sense? Or not? Did I have a point?

Seriously, with decades of my existence, I have come to the realization that everything is about business. There’s the business of this and the business of that…When you go to this or that place, work on this or that, there’s this business involved. You watch TV, there’s business. You listen to the radio, there’s business. You go to stores, to church, to school, to work, there’s business involved. So, in life, it’s all about business, right?

We’ve been raised and schooled (or educated), and programmed to deal with business in everything we do, in everywhere we go. 

In going to school to obtain or earn a degree or higher education, we deal with business because we know that education is a business, too, for as long as there’s money and/or transactions involved. 

Even the wealthy, they deal with business when their kids go to school. For example, they go to private or public schools, colleges or universities, and because they can afford to pay their tuition they have the option to pay it in full or on an installment basis. If they get scholarships or grants, they deal with the business of how to stay in school, maintain their scholarship, and manage to get through their school until they graduate, then find a job, or have a job that has been waiting for them.

There’s business involved in the case of students, of middle class or near poverty level, who have no other means to fund their schooling but to have student loans, in addition to whatever grants or aids they’re qualified for. The mere choice of a college or a university is itself a business. Lots of TV ads, and even in print media, are about advertising this or that school, college/university with enticing offers and advantages over others. Think about the requirements the students have to undergo or go through before they could set foot in a college or a university where they got accepted. They have to deal with the business of getting their student loan application and approval, don’t they?

I know, it’s a financial sacrifice, on the part of parents or guardians or independent (self-supporting) students, to go to school, get educated and to obtain helpful life skills and knowledge, with hope to have a better future-life. 

My wife and I have experienced such a situation. It was our choice, our business, and no one else but ours, to go to private and public schools and universities. We did the same for our two children. They have had grants and student loans, too. Both have worked for the AmeriCorps program, after graduation. With our help, our son has already paid for his loans, after years of paying. Meanwhile, we’re still partly helping our high school counselor-daughter who is still paying hers, though.

At this point, another realization came to mind: Though education is a business, it’s universal. Wherever you go to other countries around the world, you study the same Math, Science, Humanities, English, Economics, Music, Medicine, Philosophy (learning from world-renowned philosophers), other foreign languages you intend to study, and even Technology and Sports or Physical Education. After all, we are one, yet different in various ways and degrees, colors and characters, characteristics and lifestyles. Our lifestyle is no one else’ business but ours, isn’t it?

Well, now, it’s my business to share something with you. Let’s deal with the business of the federal government program of canceling or tossing out student loan debt, known as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). I believe thousands and thousands of students will benefit from it if or when they are qualified and approved.

Oct. 31 is the deadline for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver program, unless the U.S. Department of Education, under Secretary Miguel Cardona, extends it. 

Under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 by Congress, Public Service Loan Forgiveness was created to provide indebted professionals a way out of their federal student loan debt burden by working full-time in public service.

Despite problems (or loopholes) the PSLF program has encountered over the years since its creation (like denials of eligibility or qualification due to wrong loan type or repayment plan, forms with inaccurate information, servicers providing false or misleading information), the Biden administration has announced a temporary waiver on Oct. 6, 2021, allowing past payments to qualify even if they had the wrong loan type or payment plan.

The waiver program makes it easier for public service workers to qualify for student loan forgiveness. People who work for the federal, state, local or tribal government and most nonprofit employees are eligible for PSLF, as are employees of other public agencies, like public schools, colleges and military.

There is no limit to how much debt can be forgiven. The remaining student loan balance will be forgiven for those Direct Loan Program borrowers who made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan, while working full-time (defined as 30 or more hours a week) for a public service employer and have accrued 120 months of public service employment (even if the borrowers have had a break in qualifying work or transferred) while repaying their loans since Oct. 1, 2007. Besides teachers, education support professionals also qualify for PSLF. 

Any loans made under the Direct Loan Program, such as Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Plus Loans, and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans, qualify for PSLF program. Once excluded from PSLF, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins Loans are now also eligible. Likewise, PSLF only works for federal student loans (not from private banks) under the Federal Direct Loan program.

As a result of the waiver, about 100,000 people have had over $6.2 billions of student loans canceled as of March 2022. The government estimates about 1.3 million public servants qualify for PSLF.

Time is running out, folks. Don’t wait ’til Halloween Day, Monday, Oct. 31, to take advantage of this student loan debt forgiveness waiver. Find out if you qualify for this federal program. Google or visit studentaid.gov/pslf. Thank you.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.